CFSA and Anson County Farmers Advocate for Policies That Will Help Sustainable Farms Thrive
by Jared Cates, CFSA’s Community Mobilizer
April 23, 2013
At the beginning of April, I was fortunate enough to visit Gary and Kelly Sikes’ farm, Bountiful Harvest, in Polkton, NC. When I was growing up, my family rode through this region of the state on our back-road trips for holiday visits. I fondly remember staring out the car windows at the rolling fertile farmland and all of the cows and farms; the beauty of this part of the state always mesmerized me.
As I entered Anson County, I was enveloped by the green freshness of spring that was just starting to take over from winter. I think the taste of the cool spring air felt especially uplifting because I had already had a long day. Earlier that morning I attended the 7th annual Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Legislative Breakfast at the General Assembly in Raleigh. It was an excellent event and a great opportunity to meet many freshman and seasoned state Senators and Representative who were eager to learn about organic agriculture and local foods in North Carolina. Sandi Kronick of Eastern Carolina Organics gave an impassioned speech highlighting the importance of local foods and organics and how this growing market is creating real jobs in her business and throughout the state.
As soon as the breakfast was over, I made my way to Bountiful Harvest Farm to meet with CFSA member farmers and U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson of the 8th District. Congressman Hudson is serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives and is on the House Agriculture Committee; he will be doing important work on the farm bill this year. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and Bountiful Harvest Farm invited Congressman Hudson to visit for a farm tour and to hear from our members about organic production.
Unfortunately, the wet weather cancelled the farm tour, but the Congressman was still excited to visit the Bountiful Harvest and meet CFSA member farmers to hear their concerns about agriculture. The Sikes generously welcomed us all into their home and Kelly Sikes shared some delicious dishes prepared with free-range poultry raised on the farm. The fried chicken biscuit was a big hit!
Carson Sikes, their 14-year-old son told us about his love for the farm and how he raised a flock of 1,000 birds nearly all on his own. Carson is destined to be a master poultry farmer. The Sikes homeschool their children, and their other daughters, Mekalay and Carrie, are happy to help with the farm as well. Mekalay even helped to design the farm’s website with Kelly.
Congressman Hudson listened with interest to the seven farmers who attended and heard about the challenges facing family grass-fed beef farmers, sustainable pork operations, concerns around GMO-free grain and the general trend of corporate control edging out family farming. The Congressman shared his concerns about the short comment period for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has since been extended.
We were also happy that NC Senator Gene McLaurin (25th District) and NC Representative Mark Brody (55th District) were both able to attend the meeting. Both the Senator and the Representative had attended the CFSA Legislative Breakfast earlier that morning. We appreciated their passion and their eagerness to learn more about organics and the challenges to local food systems.
At the end of the meeting, I realized that something truly great had happened. I had just witnessed a homegrown meeting in a farmhouse full of honest, hardworking people who were voicing their concerns about the future of farming and the future of their families to our elected officials; officials who actually have the power to make the necessary policy changes to support these farms. It was a powerful feeling. Attendees appreciated that Congressman Hudson, NC Senator McLaurin and NC Representative Brody were all there to listen to their concerns and CFSA would like to thank them all for attending.
I pulled out of the driveway at Bountiful Harvest feeling encouraged. Encouraged by seeing folks come together, encouraged by elected officials honestly listening to the concerns of their constituents and hopeful that Congressman Hudson will remember these conversations and share these stories with his colleagues in Washington, D.C. when he’s working on the Farm Bill this coming year.
Many thanks to Congressman Hudson for meeting with us and many thanks to the Sikes family for inviting us into your home!
Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…Farm
by Jim Dykes, Hundred Acre Wood and Sanctuary Steward
photos provided by Hundred Acre Wood
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts by current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
I am a retired physician, now farming. I have been a part of CFSA for more than 35 years. I was at the first organizational meeting of CFSA. I’d love to share a story about that meeting.
But first I need to tell you just how I happened to be there. In my second year of Duke Medical School a grateful patient gave me a book of poetry: “Farming, A Handbook,” by Wendell Berry. The book changed the course of my life.
I would read his poems whenever my work on the wards would let me catch a moment of rest. I’d put on some fresh scrubs, find an empty stretcher in a quiet room, and read. “A Man Born to Farming,” is the first poem in the collection. I began to wonder if I too might be such a man.
Though I was doing well in school, I started to believe I was called to be a farmer, not a doctor. To the consternation of parents and medical school faculty, I dropped out.
Back in those days, Graham Center in Anson County, NC, was the mecca for those interested in sustainable agriculture. It was a joint project of the Rural Advancement Fund and the National Sharecropper’s Association. I went to learn to farm organically and connect with others who had similar dreams. While I was there, what would become the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association had its first organizational meeting.
Rosie the dog, Cathy, daughter Lia, Jim and goats
The room was packed with farmers and would-be farmers. There was a general consensus that the name of the organization should be Carolina Organic Growers. But at some point in the discussion, a farmer from Virginia stood up and gave an impassioned, impromptu speech about the necessity of stewardship.
As farmers, our relationship to the land is vitally important. A good steward manages things in a way that
fosters the long term growth of the good, that improves circumstances rather than exploits them. Good farming is
more than our choice of fertilizer, it requires compassion for the land and the creatures on it. It requires stewardship.
So Carolina Farm Stewardship Association was proposed as a name and was adopted unanimously by all present. I was proud to be there.
Although I eventually returned to Duke Medical School and practiced medicine for almost 30 years, I have remained a staunch supporter of CFSA. Now, like I did 35 years ago, I retired from medicine to farm. My farm, the Hundred Acre Wood Farm and Sanctuary, is on the CFSA fall farm tour. I hope those who visit can see signs of good stewardship. Nothing could make me more proud.
Farm-fresh dinner overlooking the garden